Homemade Laundry Detergent & Natural Fabric Softener

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Many years ago, far too many to count, my mom gave me a big glass jar of her homemade laundry soap. I took it with me to college and used it without really understanding what it was she was giving me other than some free soap. You see, when others make things for you they are giving you much more than the gift itself, this I have come to understand and really appreciate. With homemade anything, the giver is giving you time. They are giving you kindness. Most importantly, they are giving you a bit of themselves. This is one big reason among many others I feel homemade is better. And when you make something like a cleaning product you are giving yourself and your family such a wonderful gift. Then there’s the fact that when you make something yourself you know what’s in it. These days, this is quite a luxury! Two ingredients, you say? How is this possible? Let me show you.

Making things for yourself and your home does not have to be complicated. Companies want you to think that it is because then they get your money and then you get sucked in and those pretty packages sort of leap into your cart. I get it. I used to have that happen to me too! But when you look at the things we buy from stores and run your finger along the long list of foreign ingredients, it’s clear that maybe a little more intention in what we use throughout our day can go a long, long way towards healthier and more mindful living. With that in mind, I like making as many homemade products as possible when possible. I don’t take this path because I enjoy making messes in the kitchen and getting all scientific with cleaning products, I do it because it’s really much easier, more cost effective, and healthier than the alternatives out there. It is also pretty fun once you get the hang of it!

And as I have found, once you have a cleaning pantry of items at your disposal you can whip up these products in a matter of minutes. When you find yourself out of detergent or fabric softener, just get out your food processor and a few minutes later you are good to go with laundry without having to get all the kids in the car. What could have taken you well over an hour has now taken three minutes. I like this part a lot. Moral of this sort: homemade is best. Here are two wonderful homemade recipes you can take with you from my laundry room to yours.

Homemade Laundry Detergent Ingredients: 

  • 1 cup washing soda (I order ours here in bulk and store in labeled glass jars)
  • 1 cup borax (I order ours here in bulk and store in labeled glass jars…and some info on borax if you want to read up and get all nerdy like me)
  • 1 bar of pure castile soap, we love Dr. Bronner’s in rose, lavender and eucalyptus (found at a natural foods local market)
  • 20 drops of essential oils (we only use Young Living)

This process could not be simpler. Chop up your bar of soap into quarter size pieces and place into your food processor, following with the washing soda and borax. Pulse until you get a fine powder and the castile soap is broken up into very small pieces. Add your essential oils and pulse a few more times. Use one tablespoon per load to the bottom of your washing machine before adding in your clothing. This should last you quite awhile. And guess what, I still have that same old jar from my mama use it for detergent till this day. That makes me happy.

Homemade Fabric Softener Ingredients:

  • 1 cup epsom salt
  • 30 drops of essential oils

And simpler yet is this natural fabric softener recipe. Just add your ingredients to a small mason jar  and shake. Done! Add one tablespoon to the bottom of your washing machine before adding your clothing.

Note: this is much safer than fabric softener that you can find in most stores. Did you know fabric softener is one of the most toxic things you can bring into your home? We had so many problems with it when Theo was a baby due to eczema and after reading up on ways to help his skin, I threw all our store bought fabric softener away and started making my own without the harsh chemicals that was bad for both our skin and the environment. You can read more about this here if interested.

A few more tidbits: 

  • White vinegar – Use this as a rinse (1/2 cup or so) to get the excess detergent off and dissolve the salts. This is also a great way to help keep your whites white. I add this to the bleach compartment of our washing machine.
  • One neat thing about these recipes is that you can customize them to your liking by adding different combinations of essential oils. I tend to use ones that reflect the season, so below I have a fun little list of oils that I like to use and what season they correspond to:
    • Summer: Lime, Rosemary, Lavender, Citronella & Lemongrass
    • Autumn: Clove, Orange, Cinnamon & Patchouli
    • Winter: Peppermint, Frankincense, Wintergreen & Eucalyptus
    • Spring: Geranium, Rose, Lavender, Lemon, Bergamot & Chamomile

 

 

  • Thank you so much! I’ve been wondering what you use for laundry detergent. I have incredibly sensitive skin and get rashes quite frequently that the doctor thinks are due to laundry detergents… even the free and clear ones…
    I will make some of yours.
    I so appreciate you sharing your recipe with us.
    DanetteReplyCancel

  • Rebecca

    Just a quick question in regards to the detergent, can this be used for all loads, including delicates & darks? I would love to take Woolite off my shopping list.

    Thank you for the recipe!ReplyCancel

    • admin

      Rebecca, I use it for both light and darks and delicates, yes! When doing delicates I add a teaspoon though. We also air dry a lot of our clothes to keep them from breaking down. Hope you give this a try and end up liking it! x AmandaReplyCancel

      • Rebecca

        Thank you for the reply! Now off to buy supplies.ReplyCancel

  • You’re such a beautiful inspiration, Amanda. Thank you for this. Also, I’m wondering where you’ve found your large glass storage jars. I’ve been looking for something similar for ages. Best to you and your littles. xReplyCancel

    • admin

      Bethany, you are so kind dear mama. I found our storage jars at Target and some at Walmart believe it or not! But if you happen to have a Hobby Lobby near by, wait until they have their glass sale and get them at 1/2 off! They should have many sizes to choose from there and it’s a really good deal. Hope you and your crew have a great summer day, friend! xx AmandaReplyCancel

  • Larissa

    Hi Amanda, is this detergent safe in HE washers? I’m so excited to use it!ReplyCancel

    • admin

      Larissa, we have an HE washer and have had no problems with it! That being said, I don’t want to give you a definitive YES because it is a homemade product. With High Efficiency washers you have to be careful about creating too many suds which this recipe does not, so that’s the best I’ve got for ya! x AmandaReplyCancel

      • Larissa

        Thanks Amanda! I forgot to ask about Young Living – is it smarter to get to become a member if I plan on buying essential oils from there in the future? If so, would you like for me to use your sponsor/enroller ID as a referral source?ReplyCancel

        • admin

          Oh absolutely. You will save a lot of money in the long run this way if you plan on buying EO’s throughout the year when you need them. Distributers do not have to sell anything, you just get the discount which is wonderful. Everything you’ll need to know about ordering is here…http://www.homesongblog.com/join-the-family/ and you can always email me for any questions! x AmandaReplyCancel

  • Emma

    Hi sweet mama– is one tablespoon enough for even large loads? So just mix 1tbs detergent and 1tbs softener ?

    xx
    emmaReplyCancel

    • admin

      Emma, I generally only use one tablespoon but if it’s a very dirty load I’ll add a little more. You shouldn’t need more than this though…2 tablespoons MAX. And then I add only 1 of softener depending on what I am washing. If it’s towels and blankets I do one…if it’s baby clothing I don’t really do any. Hope this helps! x AmandaReplyCancel

  • Emily Thibault

    Can you use this in a front loading washing machine? My littlest also has very bad eczema, and while we switched to “free and clear” detergent, I’d still like to try this! Also – does the fabric softener help with static? We don’t use any currently (again – eczema) and don’t seem to miss it except for the static!ReplyCancel

  • Hannah Beshara

    Hi Amanda, Thanks for the recipe! I’m an avid YL Oil user so I appreciate your sweet blog very much. Do you add the detergent and fabric softener straight into the drum even if you have a special compartment for them? I can’t wait to try this out!ReplyCancel

    • admin

      Hannah, I would yes! You can add it to the compartment in the top but I’ve found it doesn’t all get rinsed out of there. And yay for YL! xx AmandaReplyCancel

  • Brooke

    Love this. Thank you. Does your recipe work for front load washers that require HE laundry detergent?ReplyCancel

    • admin

      Brooke, we have an HE washer and have had no problems with it! That being said, I don’t want to give you a definitive YES because it is a homemade product. With High Efficiency washers you have to be careful about creating too many suds which this recipe does not, so that’s the best I’ve got for ya! x AmandaReplyCancel

  • Cate

    Hi Amanda, just a question in regards to the eczema cream you made for your son. Did you, or do you know, if it was safe to use on little ones faces? I’d like to try your recipe out for my son, also named Theodore (!) but he’s only 11 months. I’m trying to get my hands on a copy of the Gentle Babies book (I’m in Australia and postage is $$!) but in the meantime thought I’d ask.ReplyCancel

    • admin

      Cate, so sorry your little Theodore has eczema! It’s the worst and just so sad. We did use this cream on the side of Theo’s face where his breakouts were really bad. Not sure if you have heard of melrose oil before but it is made by Young Living and is a wonderful oil blend to help balance out skin issues. I even use it for acne from time to time. Let me know if you want any other info on this as I’d be happy to help send some your way mama. x AmandaReplyCancel

  • stacia

    will be passing this recipe onto my daughter. she will love it. but she is also using items in the kitchen that i used in mine and going even into what my mother used in hers. very basic. i’m 62. 🙂 that being said. she (nor i) have a food processor. what would you recommend using to mix and chop the castile soap?

    if i’m reading correctly, soap and softner goes into the machine together?

    also on a side note. not sure if it’s my laptop but your font print for the comments is very difficult to read. very light where as the other print is darker. wonder if it’s just me?

    thanks for sharing this recipe.ReplyCancel

  • Anna

    Hi Amanda! Thank you for sharing such helpful information (as always)! Quick question: when do you add the vinegar and do you use a specific kind? Have a great day!ReplyCancel

    • admin

      Anna, You’re most welcome! I use white vinegar and I add this in the bleach compartment and sometimes even the softener compartment too. We buy white vinegar in the big 2 gallon buckets and use it for so many things. x AmandaReplyCancel

  • Katie

    Hi Amanda, Thanks so much for these recipes as well as the ones for your other household cleaners!! I buy YL oils and do enjoy them but my question is for all of these recipes, is it necessary to put in that many drops of the oil? Is the oil for aroma only or does it have cleaning properties? The EO’s are the only ingredient that can be really pricey so if I can use fewer drops, that would be great ;-). Thank you! Love your beautiful blog!!ReplyCancel

    • admin

      Katie, you are most welcome! The amount of EO’s are totally up to you (I think 20 is a good balance for this detergent recipe) and as you well know offer different benefits depending on the oil you use…so I would take that info. and go from there. That is the beauty of making your own, you get to choose!

      And you are right, the oils are the only pricy ingredient in these recipes so if you are looking for a cheaper alternative I would use Lemon or Tea Tree, those are both great for their antibacterial properties and are less expensive on the affordability spectrum. Hope this helps my dear. x AmandaReplyCancel

      • Katie

        Good idea! Thanks so much again. Have a lovely day.ReplyCancel

  • Heather

    Hi Amanda – I am so thrilled you share such helpful tips to maintaining a beautiful home. I am the laundry doer in my home and I would love to switch it up and try these new at-home recipes! First question, do you use the same food processor for your cleaning products AND your cooking? Or do you have 2 processors to keep them separate? Secondly, I have not pulled the trigger on EOs because I have been so hesitant as a pet owner but I am continuing my own research but does the laundry detergent have the same cleaning effect without the EO? Thanks for all of your sharing! Best, HeatherReplyCancel

    • admin

      Heather, yep I use the same one, just clean really well in between uses. I think you can do the laundry detergent without but the EO’s do add antibacterial properties and can help in that department. Tea tree, lemon, thieves…these are all really good cleaning oils and I use them frequently in both the laundry room and in other areas of our home that need cleaning. Hope this helps ya my dear! x AmandaReplyCancel

  • Shannon

    I used to make my own detergent with borax, washing soda, and fels naphtha for years, but I eventually felt that it was building up on our clothes and causing colors to fade. Have you had any trouble with that? Maybe the vinegar rinse would help. Or maybe the fels naphtha was the problem…ReplyCancel

    • admin

      Shannon, I haven’t had this problem but I think the vinegar helps a lot. Machine drying can also fade clothing pretty fast so we air dry quite a bit, especially if it’s a special item. x AmandaReplyCancel

  • Angela

    Hello. I’ve loved all your posts about homemade cleaning and beauty products – very excited to give laundry detergent a try! Do you have a second food processor you use just for making cleaning products, or is it fine to use one for everything? Also wondering if this needs a hot/warm wash to be effective or if it would be okay in a cold cycle as well. Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • Wow! This is wonderful! I’m going to start making these products too! <3ReplyCancel

  • […] One day I’d really like to make some homemade laundry detergent and natural fabric softener! I’ll keep hold of those awesome recipes until […]ReplyCancel

  • maria

    hi! aww this is amazing I really want to try this out but I was wondering instead of a bar of pure castile soap what can I replace that with because here in South Africa you cant find it 🙁
    thank you so much !ReplyCancel

  • Candice

    hi there, is there a post for the recipe to make your son’s eczema cream. I see you use Melrose oil, bees wax, and coconut oil, how much of each ingredient? I just discovered your blog while visiting Reading My Tea Leaves. Your blog is as lovely as the ladies described. thank youReplyCancel

  • alana taylor

    Does this detergent work well in HE machines? Would love to switch to something more natural, but it would have to be good for our washer and dryer…ReplyCancel

    • admin

      Alana, yes, I believe so! We have one and have not had any problems. x AmandaReplyCancel

  • Amy

    Hey Amanda! I am loving your blog! I see you have listed out different essential oils based on seasons…what combinations in each of the seasons do you like best? I am excited to try these recipes!ReplyCancel

  • Britt

    Hello! I have just made my first batch- and then I dawned on me- will this work for cold washes?
    Britt xReplyCancel

  • Natalie fenn

    Thank you for this recipe! I just finished making it and I can’t wait to do some laundry! 😊ReplyCancel

  • Julia

    Hello! These recipes sound great and i’m eager to make my first batch. I’m just wondering, do you add the vinegar at the beginning of the wash along with the detergent and fabric softener? Or do you add it afterwards with an extra rinse cycle? Thanks!
    Julia xReplyCancel

  • rebekah

    I would strongly urge you to not use Arm & Hammer. They are one of the worst for testing on animals. You can find alternative brands for the same products!ReplyCancel

    • admin

      Rebekah, I did not know this, thank you for sharing. Do you have a favorite alternative? x AmandaReplyCancel

  • Larissa

    Hi Amanda! I’ve been using the laundry salts instead of the fabric softener I used to use. I added lavender oil to the salts, but find that my clothes don’t smell like anything. I’ve gotten so used to having my clothes smell like “something” that I like to smell the freshness through a fragrance…I know, bad habit. I do have to say that my clothes are very soft though! Any tips? I’m currently using a fragrance free laundry detergent, and once this is gone I’ll be making the laundry detergent you have detailed here on your site!ReplyCancel

    • admin

      Larissa, I would start using essential oils on wool dryer balls if you’re not getting enough scent from the salts! I have been using Purification oil and love the fresh smell. x AmandaReplyCancel

  • Eve

    This is perfect. Thank you! Eager to try it out. Do you use the vinegar rinse in every load or just your whites? Also, any recommendations for a stain fighter? I rely on the sunshine but it seems like I need some backup!ReplyCancel

  • Brianna

    Loved finding this simple recipe for detergent and softener and have been using it for the past month or so. But I have noticed my clothes just don’t have that fresh clean smell to them. Any recommendations to fix this? I don’t line dry because of our windy/dusty climate.ReplyCancel

    • admin

      Brianna, you know…I think that this is just part of using natural vs. chemicals. I know exactly what you mean about loving that just-washed smell…but one idea I have is to use wool dryer balls and essential oils. I usually put a few drops of purification (a YL blend) on the them and our clothes always smell really good after having been dried. Pine is another great oil to get a fresh smell. Hope this helps!
      x AmandaReplyCancel

  • Abby Daughtry

    Hello Amanda! Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful natural detergent. I’ve been dying to find one like this, and you made it so easy! It smells so lovely too with the different oils you can add. I was wondering where you got your little metal/wooden measuring spoon? It’s the cutest!
    xoxo, abbyReplyCancel

    • admin

      Abby, I believe it was from Crate & Barrel a few years back. This detergent is the best. I just made a new batch a few days ago with Pine and Orange oils 🙂 x AmandaReplyCancel

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